Rather than continuing to stay at home, this term I’m taking my online classes from Seoul, Korea. This sounds a bit crazy, but it ended up working for me for a couple of reasons: first I have a friend who has been living in Seoul for the past year who I could live with. Second, all my classes this term are recorded lectures. Third, I found a special student VISA that lets me stay in Korea for 18 months with the benefit of being able to quarantine in my own apartment. And finally, Korea has incredibly low COVID-19 rates compared to the US.
I’ve been here about a month now and am starting to pick up some Korean and starting to understand all the cultural norms. I still don’t bow enough when meeting people!
But taking a step back, let me quickly cover how I got here.
Journey to Korea
Traveling to Korea was a bit of a mess, so here’s a quick rundown of how I did it:
- I packed everything I needed and stored the rest in the 36 hours between my internship finishing on a Friday and my flight early Sunday morning from LAX
- My second flight from Vancouver to Seoul got delayed by 20 hours due to a Typhoon, but fortunately I was given a hotel room nearby to stay the night
- I was stopped at the gate and told I might need a COVID-19 test due to new regulations that came out a few days prior. After waiting around for 15 minutes with peak anxiety, the gate attendant said I was good to go
- After the 12-hour flight, it took another 8 hours to fill out the quarantine paperwork, wait for a special quarantine bus, and eventually make it to the apartment I would be staying in
With that all behind me, I hunkered down for my 2-week total lockdown quarantine. I spent most of my time studying and taking the GRE, but after I was able to work on my orbital dynamics research. Overall, I didn’t find quarantine to be too terrible and was happy to get that work out of the way before classes!
Breaking Free and Exploring!
My first night free, and many nights since, my two friends I’m living with and I went out to an all you can eat pork belly restaurant that has some fantastic food! We got to wear these cool aprons to and keep all the drippings off ourselves.
I have also started training with a swim team here called Swim Monster. I have to say, their team is aptly named because every practice has been very tough. But while I’m working on getting back into shape I’m getting good with my Korean numbers! Between distances, intervals, and the coaches reading off times, I get more than enough practice hearing numbers.
Enough about me for now, let me know what you all would like to read about next: Caltech or Korea?
Note: the thumbnail is not actually Seoul, it was a photo I took when I visited Incheon